Ever wondered what it would feel like to slather a mixture of lamb’s fat and cannabis all over your naked body? The sensation was a familiar one to European women, once upon a time.
While the U.S. is only now starting to explore modern medical uses of marijuana, for centuries, women around the world have harnessed the magical green leaves to relieve pain, make sex better, and even attempt to manage STDs. The jury is still out on how safe and effective these remedies were, but perhaps they’ll inspire new research into cannabis’ potential today.
Here’s a quick tour through pot’s lesser-known history with the ladies.
Women rubbed pot on swollen breasts.
Weed has been used as a topical treatment for centuries. Back in the eleventh century, women used it to treat swollen breasts. The Old English Herbarium described the process as follows: “Rub [the herb] with fat, lay it to the breast, it will disperse the swelling.” Documents show the same method was used in nineteenth-century Germany and Austria, where cannabis was “laid on the painful breasts of women who have given birth.”
Tantric sex disciples drank pot ‘milkshakes.’
From about the seventh century onward, the use of cannabis became widespread in Indian tantric sex practices. Called Bhang, pot was often mixed with milk, water, and other spices into a kind of “marijuana milkshake,” which practitioners drank to enhance sexual pleasure. Pot is still considered an aphrodisiac today.
Doctors prescribed pot for STDs.
In the late seventeenth century, a German physician declared cannabis a remedy for gonorrhea. His recipe called for cooking the plant in water with nutmeg, then consuming it. Then again in 1860, an Ohio State Commission echoed this claim, stating that cannabis mixed with milk and sugar, taken every three to four hours for a week, was a sure-fire cure for the STD. On the other side of the globe, nineteenth-century Persian prostitutes used cannabis to help manage urethritis—a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the urethra—which was prevalent among sex workers at the time.
Women relied on pot during childbirth.
Using weed during childbirth is not recommended today, since long-term side effects are still unknown. However, back in ancient Egypt, marijuana was frequently used during labor. Ancient Egyptians would grind cannabis into honey and apply the mixture to the vagina to induce contractions. Fast forward a couple centuries (and continents) to 1851, when the Monthly Journal of Medical Science of Edinburgh claimed cannabis had a “remarkable power of increasing the force of uterine contraction during labour.” By 1854 the medical use of marijuana during childbirth, especially to aid with contractions, was noted in the Dispensatory of the United States.
Women consumed pot to treat migraines.
In ninth-century Persia, the juice from cannabis seeds was mixed with herbs and used to treat migraines and other pain-related ailments. As recently as 1942, Morris Fishbein, then-editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, recommended cannabis drops specifically for migraines, especially for women about to get their period.
Pot also made periods more bearable.
Talk about the royal treatment. In the nineteenth century, Queen Victoria received monthly doses of cannabis from her personal physician, Sir John Russell Reynolds, to relieve menstrual pain. Meanwhile, around the same time in the U.S., women used Dysmenine—a medicinal syrup which contained cannabis—to treat cramps.
Virgins used pot to make sex more enjoyable.
In 1930s Russia, young brides used a mixture of lamb’s fat and nasha (cannabis) to make their wedding night less uncomfortable by reducing “the pain of defloration.” Brides also took advantage of its well-known aphrodisiac qualities.